HAZLET - The Point Pleasant Beach baseball team is out to earn respect and there is no better time to earn it than in a week like the Garnet Gulls opened up on Sunday at Raritan in the Shore Conference Tournament.

Senior Chris Russo pitched six strong innings and classmate John Nista closed out the game, giving Point Beach - the No. 24 seed in the tournament - a 3-1 win over No. 9 Raritan and a ticket to the SCT round of 16 against either No. 8 Toms River North or No. 25 Manchester on a date to be determined.

Sunday's game put an end to four consecutive days in which the game was rained out, while six more first-round games are still have yet to be played and are scheduled for Tuesday.

Point Beach senior Chris Russo. (Photo by Matt Manley)
Point Beach senior Chris Russo. (Photo by Matt Manley)

"At the end of the day, we're a good program," Point Beach coach Angelo Fiore said. "We've got some pretty talented kids and I think we're getting the right mix right now from the seniors and some of the younger guys."

Russo allowed one run on five hits over his six innings of work to earn the win before turning the game over to Nista in the seventh. Raritan mounted a two-out threat with two singles and a walk after it was down to its last out, but Nista struck out Dan VanMeerbeke for the game-clinching out - his third strikeout of the inning.

Nista also ignited the first of three run-scoring rallies by Point Beach. The senior led off the top of the fifth with a double to right field and scored from third on a two-out error on the infield on a line drive hit by freshman Alec Glenn.

"I'm adamant about this: if (Nista) was pitching at (Toms River) South or North, he'd be going (to play college baseball) in the Big East or somewhere like that," Fiore said of Nista, who is heading to Kean University next season. "He's throwing 88, 89, 90 (miles-per-hour). The kid is pretty damn good. He's an impact player for us."

Point Beach scratched across its second run in the top of the third on an unconventional, 4-6-5 double play with the bases loaded that ended the inning, but allowed the runner from third to score since the final out was recorded on a tag play instead of a force out.

Point Beach senior John Nista. (Photo by Matt Manley)
Point Beach senior John Nista. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Jude Lovgren picked up his third hit of the game with a two-out, RBI single to center field in the top of the sixth to extend Point Beach's lead to 3-0.

Raritan starting pitcher Jake Tennant ripped a leadoff double to the right-center gap in the sixth and scored on a fielder's choice. Point Beach's infield was playing deep with a runner at third by shortstop Phil Antoniotti still elected to go for the runner at the plate after fielding the ground ball and his throw was not in time to get Tennant.

After Nista struck out the first two batters of the seventh, Rockets left fielder Dan Fiore was down to his last strike and came through with a single to center. After a wild pitch eliminated the force-out at second base, Tyler Bruno barely beat out a ground ball to shortstop to extend the game and stole second base. Fiore opted to walk Tennant with the count 3-1 to load the bases and bring up VanMeerbeke.

Nista reached back and struck him looking out on four pitches, capped by a fastball on the outside edge.

Point Beach opens the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group I Tournament as the No. 5 seed Monday with a home game against No. 12 Palmyra. Nista threw 26 pitches on Sunday, which makes him eligible to pitch in the state tournament opener.

Toms River North is slated to host Manchester on Tuesday in the Shore Conference Tournament, meaning Wednesday is the earliest Point Beach could play its round-of-16 game in the SCT.


Box Score

Point Beach 3, Raritan 1

Pt Beach (14-7)01100103100
Raritan (16-5)0000010174


Chris Russo (W)65114277
John Nista (S)12001326
Jake Tennant (L)5.19321685
Hunter Neville1.21000213

Top Hitters

Point BeachStats
Jude Lovgren3-4, RBI
John Nista2-4, 2B, R
Jake Tennant3-3, 2B, BB, R
Dan VanMeerbeke1-4, RBI
Tyler Bruno2-4


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